“Thank You So Much For Making Art That Is Freaking Me Out”: Stereogum Hosts A Fiery CocoRosie Symposium


So friend-of-SOTC Brandon Stosuy noticed, in the critical ether, a distinct air of either bizarre indifference or outright hostility to outré avant-pop sister act CocoRosie, from their latest record, May’s Grey Oceans, on down. In response, he convened a panel of like-minded artists, from Antony to Yoko Ono to St. Vincent, to discuss a) why they love CocoRosie, and b) why they think other people hate CocoRosie. The former discussion is a lot more reasonable; the latter is a lot more interesting.

The approach here varies: Yoko does her drive-by Yoko thing (“Grey Oceans by CocoRosie shows us a sliver of a secret ocean of high waves we wish to be part of in our dreams”), St. V. quotes Dave Hickey’s Air Guitar at length, JD Samson describes it as “music that feels you, instead of you feeling it,” and Nico Muhly does the best job of talking them up:

While each of their albums has irritated me as much as delighted, it’s always in the same way I am irritated by not being able to speak Chinese when I walk through the supermarket under the Manhattan bridge, or by watching the ease with which deaf lovers address each other across the noise of a crowded restaurant. I want to achieve a fluency in their world, and with each album, I feel myself coming closer to a child-like ability to phonate.

Of course, a bit of straw-man trash-talking is always more fun, and with that we turn to Antony, who, after noting the prescience of releasing an album named Grey Oceans in May 2010, liberates them girls from male white corporate oppression:

They are unafraid to manifest their vision that the application of magical creativity could be a balm for aching souls in a struggling world. They take risks that no other artists in the scene dare to, and the (predominantly white hetero male) music press punishes them for it … and yet as women Cocorosie are dismissed because their visual presentation frustrates many male writers’ abilities to sexualize them. Who are you assigning to think on your behalf?

Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, as is his wont, gets even less subtle; after some evocative praise (“They always strike me across the knuckles as so wrong in so many ways that it is wonderful actually, like when you look into a cloud of poison gas”), he goes straight for… Vampire Weekend:

So many white North East and Oakland bands are trying to be and play black but only come across as clueless, racist idiots. CocoRosie has always had what John Darnielle — a huge fan of theirs — described as race issues but they seemed to deal with race as just that, an issue. not like fake Ivy League Afropop rip-off assholes who are, as their wealthy grandparents before them, plundering race without any consideration for the implications. Coco race dives into race in a way that — as I said — scares me. Scares me because it is so insane and so bold and it is also respectful and feels true. Thank you so much for making art that is freaking me out.

He’s not really reaching with “insane,” there — recall Coco co-founder Bianca Casady’s infamous involvement in the Great Williamsburg “Kill Whitie” Kerfuffle of 2005, or the cringeworthy lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me.” Personally, I think it’d be swell if we could respect any band capable of stirring up this much debate without a) concluding that they must be racist or b) concluding that anyone who doesn’t like them must be racist/sexist/anti-environmentalist, given that CR’s actual music (a clattering digital barnyard vying for profound discomfort at least as often as “beauty”) is bizarre and polarizing and off-putting pretty much by design.

The backlash to the backlash to the backlash oughta be hilarious, in any event.